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March 23, 2011

Tiger Woods


MARK STEVENS: Like to welcome Tiger Woods to the media center. Tiger, you won in your last two starts, but you're making your first start since 2009. If you want to talk about the course you just got done playing, and then we'll take a few questions.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I played the back nine yesterday, and played all 18 today in the Pro-Am. It's a very different golf course than what I played in a couple of years ago after the redo. Most of the greens have been raised. Bunkers are different, and the greens are way more firm. This is going to be a pretty good test this week. I know that the routing is pretty much the same. But he did squeeze in a couple tee shots and shaped the greens a little bit differently.
But as firm as these things are and the temperatures with where they are supposed to be at and as much sand in the bunkers, it's going to be one heck of a test this week.

Q. If you were just a fan, not a player, coming out to a golf tournament, which one of those young guys would you make it a point to go out and watch play golf? Anybody in particular that's really caught your attention?
TIGER WOODS: I think would I like to see, for me personally, I would go watch Ryo. I like how he plays. I like how he goes about his business. Just his demeanor on the golf course, as well, but I really like his putting stroke. It's a pretty pure stroke. But just the way he plays, I think how he manages himself around the golf course is pretty good for a person still in his teens.

Q. Speaking of putting, last year or so, from time to time you'll miss a putt that I know shocks us to see you miss it, and I assume might shock you, also. Is it something, more of the putts not going in in the past year, is it something that you assume at some point will come back around, or is there something you are working on to make it come back around?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's more practice, plain and simple. I had not practiced my putting as much as I had in years past, and consequently, I became more of a streaky putter. There are times when I get in these streaks where I don't miss and there are times where I don't hit the hole from whatever the distance.
I've never been that way. I've always been a pretty consistent putter day-in and day-out and I'm getting back to that. This year, I've got I think much better with my speed. I've gotten back to focusing on that and making sure my speed is good day-in and day-out. And consequently, this year, all of the rounds I've played this year, I've only had one 3-putt this year, which is good, that's a good sign. Just need to continue working on that.

Q. At Sherwood, you played really good golf for four days, and then when you came back to Torrey, what happened between those two months, and is it possible that when you had said late in the fall that you thought you were farther along with Sean than you had been on the other changes, that maybe you were not as far along as you thought?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I was far along for one-shaped shot. And that was calming down the draw, and my draw got more compressed, I was hitting it better. I could hit it high. All of these different things, I liked seeing, but consequently, I wasn't fading the ball very good. And on top of that, bringing the ball down, I had a hard time bringing the ball down. And when the wind came up -- like say in Dubai, I got exposed. I played well when there was no wind, but as soon as the wind comes up, now I have to start shaping shots and bringing the ball down and really start shaping it. It wasn't there.
It was something we had to rectify and we have. And consequently, I played so much better at Doral when the wind blew. I'm able to feel much more comfortable shaping the ball both ways.
When I played at Sherwood, I was hitting draws on every shot. I rarely ever cut one or even attempted to cut one. But I don't want to always play that way. I want to be able to shape shots both ways in all different trajs, and I think that was the step that I thought would take a little bit -- wouldn't take as long, but it has. And it's finally starting to come around.

Q. Two question, one, you launched an app through iPhone and came out at a ten dollar price and a couple of guys are out here with apps at half that price. Your thoughts on who decides that price, and what are your thoughts for that app and what it can do for fans.
TIGER WOODS: Shotzoom is what determined the price. Half of the proceeds -- all of the proceeds for us go to the Foundation.
So obviously we want to raise as much money as we possibly can for the Foundation, and it's a way for everyone of you or anyone who participates in the game of golf to use the same technology that I use on a daily basis. This is what I do. I take a video of my swing. That's how I make the swing changes with Sean. So I use it almost daily. And there's no reason why anyone else can't.
Also, I think the primary reason is because we want to raise more money for our foundation and do more things to help more kids. That's our main focus.

Q. You talked in the past about how much your father was your primary putting coach; how much do you miss having him for that, and what would you be working on with him now?
TIGER WOODS: It's funny you say that. I went back to all of my old stuff that my dad and I used to work on. And that's when I felt that my stroke started becoming more sound, more solid, my speed became better.
I don't know what that dude saw in my game, but he really knew putting and he knew my stroke. My dad really knew my stroke. And I miss him for a lot more reasons than just the putting, but as far as bouncing ideas off of him and what I was feeling and what he would say, I do miss that, certainly.

Q. Speaking of memory lane, it's the 25th anniversary of the Nicklaus Masters win. I think you had said at some point along the line, you remember watching that and I remember your dad was there with you, you were ten; can you just sort of describe what that was like watching that guy do what he did and any impact it made on you as a kid?
TIGER WOODS: First of all, I truly didn't understand what the Masters was all about. I was only ten. Just became double digits.
So as far as impact, seriously, the only memory I really have of that tournament was the putt at 17. Just how the putter went up, and how basically he walked it in. I had not seen -- I had not recalled anyone else doing that prior to that. I remember Hal fist-pumping prior to that, I think it was '83 at Riviera, I remember him doing that.
But I don't remember anyone ever walking a putt in like that. That was the first time I remember seeing someone do that. That's what kind of stuck in my head. But after that, I've seen that thing thousands of times, just the whole round, the whole tournament.
But just that one time, that's the only thing I can really recall from it.

Q. Watching at home with your dad?
TIGER WOODS: I was. We went out, we always go out and play in the morning, and come back in the afternoon. Because don't forget, the telecast always started around 6:00 or 7:00 when they would pick it up and they would show highlights of what the guys were doing. At the time that they picked up the telecast, Jack had just birdie 9 and was on No. 10 or something like that. So basically we caught the entire back nine.

Q. What's been a bigger frustration for you, the full swing changes you're undergoing and either not being able to hit shots or the short game struggles of the last year or so, and why? And different question, John Smoltz is playing in a Nationwide event coming up soon, your thoughts on his game. Obviously you have played a lot together?
TIGER WOODS: As far as the changes, yeah, the changes are not easy to make. It's learning -- I can make a swing change, but as far as understanding what the feels are, that's going to take time. I can make a swing look fine on a camera. But it doesn't work, because I don't know what the feels are. That takes time.

Q. Is that more frustrating than the putting?
TIGER WOODS: The putting will come. The putting will come. The chipping will come. Because I'm learning a new release, so that's going to take time.
But I know that I can do that. I've done it before. The swing changes, a little bit -- the margin of error is obviously a lot smaller when you're hitting a ball that goes 300-yards-plus versus a little pitch.
But I know from just the work I've done, it starts with the putting stroke and it works its way out. Once I get the release dialed in with the putting and the chipping and the irons, then eventually the driver, everything just falls into line.

Q. And Smoltz?
TIGER WOODS: And Smoltzy? Well, I had not played with an amateur that had ever shot the scores he shot. I mean, he is a hell of an athlete. He can play basketball. Obviously he was an incredible pitcher. But I think just the way he's able to take that same tenacity into golf is pretty amazing.
I've gone out there and played with him and he shot, what, 69-67 in the same day. Not too many amateurs can do that, especially when they are still playing a professional sport at the time. So it's pretty phenomenal.

Q. You and Phil have combined to win seven Masters. This year, given that you guys haven't played your best yet, and given that kids are kind of nudging their way up, does it seem that maybe this is the most wide-open Masters that we have had in a while?
TIGER WOODS: You know, I don't know, because guys can go in there with great form and not play well, and guys can go in there with no form and turn it around.
I think that it's changed over the years, I think when the field expanded, because you would have guys not play worth a darn the entire year but once they get there, we are only competing against, what, 65 guys normally, and 44 and ties make the cut. You didn't have to beat a lot of guys.
Now the fields are much deeper, so it definitely opens it up. But I think that of any of the -- there's no other major where knowledge of how to play the golf course comes into play. That's why I think you see so many repeat winners there. You really have to know how to play that golf course.
And, you know, looking at what Phil did last year, I mean, he didn't hit the ball as well as he would like to on Sunday, there's no doubt. But he missed it in the perfect spot every time. And that's understanding how to play the golf course.
You're not going to hit it perfect there, and you're not going to make every putt. But you have to leave yourself in the right spots, and he did that every time.

Q. Another Masters question. Looking at your experience, how are you looking forward to it this year, as opposed to a year ago? Do you think you'll be more at ease?
TIGER WOODS: I'm definitely looking forward to it. I'm definitely looking forward to getting up there and preparing and practicing. I'm going to head up there next week and get a few rounds in. I know there have been a couple of changes, so I want to take a look at that and chart those. From what the guys who have actually played it so far, have said there's a lot of grass out there and it's playing slow.
Who knows, it could change. They could thin out the fairways or whatever it is. If we get warm weather there, it's going to be a heck of a test.

Q. You've got a pretty good pairing tomorrow with a couple of guys who can hit it 300-plus like you were discussing?
TIGER WOODS: (Laughing).

Q. What's that like as a guy who used to spend a lot of time looking back?
TIGER WOODS: I'll be the Corey Pavin of my group. (Laughter) Seriously. I'll just kind of put it out there in play and put it up on the green and try and make putts. Those guys will be bombing it way out there past me.
It's a new game now. It is what it is. When I first came out on TOUR, I was second-longest on the TOUR in '96. There was only one guy at the time, John Daly, that was over 300. If you're not over 300 now, you're not in the Top 15. The game has really changed. It's gotten long.
I think that what you're seeing, I mean, the next -- I'm sorry, the next two days is a perfect example of where the game has changed, where you've got two guys who used to play basketball are now playing golf and that's what I've been alluding to all these years. We are finally going to get athletes. Guys who can dunk. Guys could have played baseball or could have played football at the D1 level, but no, they are playing to play golf instead. Now with all of that speed and power and fast twitch are now playing golf. And this is a perfect example of it. These two guys play basketball now; he wants to play golf instead.

Q. Seriously, you can still step on it, if you have to, can you?
TIGER WOODS: I can, but I don't have the gears that those guys do. When I hit it solid and they hit it solid, obviously they are going to be longer. If I step on it and they step on it, they are still going to be longer. I just don't quite have -- I'm not as tall as they are. Certainly not as big.

Q. When did you kind of notice yourself going into that streaky putter category? Was it something coming off the layoff last year?
TIGER WOODS: No, no, this is back in probably way back in '05,06, somewhere in there. I would get on runs for two or three tournaments in a row where I would really putt well and then I would just lose it.
And it goes back to not practicing as much. I took for granted my putting, and didn't really spend a lot of time doing it. And I expecting to out there and putt well every day. I've got to log in the hours, so I went back to doing that and this year I've putted much better.

Q. You talked at Doral about having to change the release through everything, putter included. How does what you're doing with the change and release match up with what your dad taught you?
TIGER WOODS: It's exactly the same, and what Foley is trying to get me to do with my full swing and how he wants me to release it and how I used to release my putter. That's one of the reasons why I've gone back to my old stuff that my dad and I used to work on, and it feels so much -- it feels natural, because I've done it for so long. I just got away from it and now I'm going back to it.

Q. It's been eight or nine years now since they made all of those big changes at Augusta. At some points that's been referred to as Tiger proofing but you've obviously won since then and contended almost every year since. But did they make it harder for you there? Did those changes specifically make it tougher on you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think, one, it took away -- at the time when I was still one of the longest players out here, it took away the par 5s. I used to hit driver and iron to every par 5. That's what Freddie used to do. That's what I used to do. And back when Jack played in his day, that's what he used to do. That's not the case anymore. Good drives, you don't always have irons -- I had not hit an iron yet into maybe a couple of times it was downwind on 2, when I used to hit driver and 8-iron in there.
As you saw in '97, I hit driver, wedge, twice into 15. Is that year, I hit wedge, wedge, 8-iron, 4-iron. That's a big change. Now you're hitting a wood or some kind of hybrid or a long iron, maybe, into 15.
And 13, with the tee moved back and to the left, it's a little bit hard to get around the corner. I was hitting 3-wood and an 8-iron to that hole. I could hit 9-iron and wedge into that hole which I have. So it's changed quite a bit.

Q. When you went through your other two big swing changes, you could still throw in an occasional contention, a T-2. What's different this time around that relates to results?
TIGER WOODS: I think it's just trying to make all of the changes. The changes I've made from Hank to Sean I think are bigger than what I was going through from Butch to Hank. I think they are bigger changes, and it's taken a little bit of time, but then again, I've showed some good signs of late. The Sunday round at Doral was back to what I know I can do. And then played well at Tavistock, and I've had good practice sessions so I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.

Q. Is this the biggest change ever, for you?
TIGER WOODS: Considering where I came from, yes. As I said going from bump to Hank was not as big a change, but from Hank to Sean has been a bigger change.

Q. Bigger than the first switch to Butch?

Q. A year ago, a lot of us were talking to Arnold about him getting that personal phone call from you about not playing in this tournament. How difficult was it to miss this tournament, and to make a phone call to that man, and what's it like to be back here now?
TIGER WOODS: It's extremely difficult. That's a person who I admired and looked up to. It was a good conversation. It was a lengthy one but it was a real positive conversation. I have the utmost respect for Arnold and what he's done for the game and just excited to be back and playing here. This is a great event. Obviously everyone knows I've lived here for -- well, since '96.
I'm really looking forward to getting out there tomorrow and playing, and hopefully the fans and everyone will come out and support this great event. They do a lot for Winnie Palmer and the hospitals there, his and win any's. And as everyone knows, my two kids were born there, so very thankful for what he's done.

Q. Arnold was in here before saying that the kids shouldn't be discounted going to the Masters; they could step up, but you also talked about experience there. Without the experience can they be sort of discounted and overlooked because they don't have the experience? And secondly, the swing changes, how much of the changes are related to reducing torque on the left side, whether it be knee or ankle?
TIGER WOODS: Okay, what was the first part of your question? (Laughter).

Q. The first part, about experience of young players at the Masters?
TIGER WOODS: I think Fuzzy won in his first time there.

Q. He's the only guy?
TIGER WOODS: Only guy. For me it took three times. I think it can be done.
I think the key; just like what I try to tell all the guys who are going up there for their first time or couple times, is play practice rounds with the guy who is know how to play. I was lucky enough, my first year I played with Arnold and Jack; I played with Seve and Ollie and Norman and Floyd and Couples. That's pretty good, isn't it? And you pick their brain and just ask and you continually ask questions.
All of those guys know exactly how to play the golf course. Where to miss it, that's the biggest key, where to miss the golf ball, to every pin. It was different then, because obviously we didn't have the second cut and we didn't have the trees where they were and they would say hit this drive 50 yards over here. Norman would tell me sometimes he would play down one fairway to the right pin on 9. I said, well how could you do that with that tree there? That tree wasn't there. All of these different things, how they would play and how they would shape shots, blow it over here for this angle into that, but now you can't do it because of the first cut, all of these different things. But it helps to have that knowledge and pick their brains, and I think that's one of the reasons I didn't was able to win so early is because I had that bank of knowledge.
And your second part was?

Q. Torque on your left side of your swing?
TIGER WOODS: I think the key for when I was working with Hank and with Sean is to reduce that because obviously I had trashed my knee pretty good over the years, torn cartilage and eventually ruptured my ACL. That's always been a priority.

Q. Are you still having issues with that?
TIGER WOODS: Just age, yeah.

Q. Not too many golfers come into an event knowing that they are six-time champions there, but you also alluded to the changes that you see on the course today. How much will those changes undermine the confidence and the self-assurance you would otherwise have here, or do you still feel totally comfortable?
TIGER WOODS: I do feel comfortable. It's going to be reading the greens properly. That's going to be the trick. I've played here and won here when they made the last big change, so the greens were firm that year and I played well, so I understand the golf course and where to hit it and where to miss it. It's just getting the reads, because the reads obviously change. Certain putts that I know, even for instance 13, used to break towards the water and now it breaks away from the water. Completely different.
So I spent a little bit of time yesterday and a little bit of time yesterday hitting more putts than I normally would. Got the pace down but certain reads, I didn't quite feel comfortable with and talked over with Stevie a little bit as we were going through the day; what did he see, having him tell me putts he thought would be tricky and I would go and hit those putts as well.

Q. Kind of a thinking question, one of your peers mentioned that he thought Augusta, all things being equal, Augusta might be a course where being left-handed might be an advantage, where you don't have to hit, as Ernie (sic - Goydos) calls them, coat hanger hooks around corners on par 5s; 12 run as way from you as a right hander. Any validity to that, all things being equal?
TIGER WOODS: Well, depends what your normal shot pattern is. Phil went there and he's predominately a drawer of the golf ball, then it would be a little bit more difficult. I know Steve Flesch draws the ball, and so I think that would be a more difficult -- he would fall in line with some of the guys that go to Augusta, for us righties who fade the ball.
So it depends what shot shape is most comfortable. You don't have to hook the ball as much as people think, but you do have to turn it over for a righty. You're going to have to move the ball from right-to-left. They have changed, as I have said, they have changed the tees on several holes; on 10 they moved it back left to where you have to turn it, 13 back to left and you have to turn it now. Before, you really didn't have to do anything. You could still hit a cut off 10 and still be fine. You didn't do that now and get into the bowl.
Yeah, I mean, Ernie is right with that, there are certain holes, but I think it's predominately what your natural, comfortable shot shape is.
MARK STEVENS: Thank you very much, Tiger.

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